It began with the invention of new pigments and papers in the late 1700s, transforming a long-time illustrator and mapmaker's medium into a vehicle of experiment for such ground-breaking early 19th-century English landscape painters as
Then such landmark American talents as
But not long afterward, the pendulum turned -- then plunged so far that museums and magazines once noted for their enthusiastic support began turning their backs on anything that resembled an endorsement.
The revolutionary Modernism of the 1913
So deep was the divide by the late 1950s that -- when the art publications stopping sending reporters --virtually every major museum withdrew its support, leading to a nichelike world that most mainstream observers nearly 75 years later still dismiss as a technically adept but less than inspired backwater.
That assessment would be wrong, however, in the case of the best works on view at the
"Watercolor gets this bad rap because it's one of the easiest media to start out with -- and one of the hardest to do well," center curator
"But many of the things here are very advanced -- and the artists are just as good as anyone working in acrylic or oil."
The proof can be found in such admirable images as "Old Wheels at Rest," in which Indian artist Panda Chinmaya extracts a powerful visual statement from a common, unpretentious scene that -- in lesser hands -- might have resulted in something technically fluent yet expressively vacant.
Stripping the subject down to its essence, Chinmaya underscores the glare of the overhead sun radiating off a stark white wall -- then uses that arresting backdrop to showcase the abstract qualities of a turquoise-colored window grate, the black frame and wheels of an antiquated bicycle and the provocative visual echo created by that bike's shadow.
"That wonderful, glorious expanse of white just draws you in. It's a very simple but strong monotone," Blanchard-Gross says, comparing the disarmingly bare simplicity of the painting to the distinctive style of the great late-20th-century American watercolorist
"Sometimes artists put too much into their images. But this shows you the power of subtraction."
Similar qualities of abstraction and expression can be found in British artist
Then there is the captivating surrealist dilemma depicted by
In her juror's statement, Director
And she was right.
Erickson can be reached at 757-247-4783. Find more
2014 National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibition
Info: 757-596-8175; http://www.pfac-va.org
Online: Go to dailypress.com/entertainment/arts to see a gallery of works from the show.
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